Mama, donating breastmilk is beautiful
Updated: Jul 15
BY GUEST WRITER, HEATHER LIN
Every day at work, I fill two bottles with glistening, pale, liquid love.
My love chills in the fridge beside sandwiches, salad dressings and takeout boxes. My food is so different from theirs – because mine is made out of love.
Liquid love, maternal love made physical in the form of milk.
The milk trundles home in a taxi or on a city bus. It gets poured into little bags, and patiently freezes amongst the salmon and the ice cubes.
There, it awaits. My liquid love awaits a reason to be needed. It awaits a small mouth to feed, a small stomach to nourish, a small belly to fill. It waits, unfulfilled, in the freezer. “One day my chance will come!”
Then, such a day comes. Via Facebook, or via a mutual connection. A dutiful husband shows up at the door. A thankful mother. Some bear small gifts of appreciation. I tell them “No, you are doing me the favour.”
Out of the freezer, my liquid love goes. Into a cooler bag, and hurriedly shepherded to a new home. Another baby awaits it. Another pair of eager lips guzzles it from a bottle. Another little tummy is soothed.
I have too much. You have too little. Let me help you.
I have donated roughly 10 litres of milk to about a dozen different babies. I have pumped for over 2 years, for my two children. Very quickly, my own babies opted to wait the long hours till mama came home to nurse, and my liquid love piled up in the freezer, unwanted and unused.
As my freezer stash grew, I wondered what to do with it.
Make soap? Pour it in the bath? It’s supposed to be wonderful for all kinds of ailments or even as a moisturiser.
But my quantities seemed too large for such endeavours. I poked around on social media and came across Human Milk 4 Human Babies; an informal milk donation page. Excellent! I had always loved being useful, and donating milk seemed right down that path.
My first donation was to a friend, whom I messaged with as she was going through the first days with her newborn. She was struggling with nursing and was considering supplementing. I suggested donor milk, my milk.
Like many, my friend did not know that such options existed, or that donating human milk was even practised. From then on, I regularly donated my stash each time it grew beyond a dozen bags.
Sometimes, mothers posted “I need help.” Other times, I posted “Who can I help?” The call was always promptly answered.
I can only speak from the perspective of a mother who has donated milk. I do not know of the bravery it takes to ask for help. I do not know of the confidence it takes to lean on others.
What I do know is the joy of being able to help.
The eagerness to be of service. The satisfaction of knowing my blessings won’t swirl pointlessly down the drain.
I’m often told: “That is amazing that you’ve donated so much!”
I disagree. What is amazing is that so many mothers thought to reach out.
So many mothers were so committed to breastfeeding, that they allowed a stranger to help. So many mothers followed their urge to provide, all the way to the doorstep of another mother, to bring back food for their babies.
Using donor milk is a beautiful example of how raising children takes a village.
We were not meant to go at it alone, isolated in our homes, cut off from our tribe.
We were meant to rely on our fellow women, fellow mothers, unified by our common experiences.
Just as how staring into a flickering fire can stir something primal in the depths of our being, feeding another’s baby from the milk our body produced, awakens a powerful sentiment.
Let me help you. I can help you. You are not alone.
About the author: Heather Lin is a Canadian mom living in Hong Kong and is passionate about breastfeeding: She is an accredited La Leche League leader; a volunteer role which centres around offering mother-to-mother support and information.
Hong Kong currently does not have a regulated breast milk donation bank.
All donations are made informally
Parents should do thorough research before accepting and using donor milk